The Longest Night: Herbs for the Winter Solstice Season

WinterSolsticeHerbs

The wheel of the year turns deeper into the dark, bringing us to the longest night of winter.  The Winter Solstice is both a time of honoring the reflective gift of solitude and the distant promise of the seed sparking to life.  With this spirit we invite herbs into our practice that root our dreams into reality as well as warm us with the inner fire of the sun’s promised return.

So put on the kettle, prepare your charm, and welcome in the winter!

PINE Pinus sp.
Evergreens are sacred trees and remain green throughout cold seasons when other trees lay bare.  The needles of the Pine tree can be made into a tea and is an excellent source of vitamin C (more vitamin C, in fact, than citrus fruits such as lemons and grapefruit!).  Drink Pine tea throughout the day to clear up congestion and excess mucus.

ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis
Warming Rosemary gives us the gift of a dry, Mediterranean heat in the long dark days of winter.  After a bought of sickness or a round of the blues, drink Rosemary tea to restore your body’s inner warmth and fire for life. Rosemary is very restorative to all of our blood organs such as the liver, heart, spleen, and kidneys, bringing back balance after a period of fatigue.  It is also helpful for a dispelling the winter fog from a dull mind.

VALERIAN Valeriana officinalis
A root of water and earth, Valerian is gently sedating, helping us to fully settle into the Season of Slowing Down.  Restlessness, insomnia, nervous stomach, and tension, dissolve with the use of Valerian.  My favorite way to take Valerian is as a glycerite, but it can also be enjoyed as a tea (even though we use the root, it should not be decocted since that would destroy its delicate volatile oils).  Mix Valerian with other herbs such as Mugwort, Anise, and Peppermint to create a potent brew for inducing visionary dreams.

yule dala winter solstice

CHAMOMILE Matricaria recutita
A classic herb for stomach upset, nausea, and indigestion, Chamomile also supports a sense of peace and cheerfulness in the body through its nervine qualities.  Chamomile flowers are miniature suns and can be used in bath, steams, teas or made into an herbal oil to uplift the spirit, calm the cranky, and center wayward energy.  I think a jar full of Chamomile flowers is a pleasant sun-honoring addition to the home altar.

I also find Flower + Gem Essences to be beneficial at any time of the year!  The following are excellent deep winter wonders:

SAGE Flower Essence
The Winter Solstice is the cusp between the signs of Sagittarius and Capricorn – Sage is a plant of Sagittarius and its ruling planet Jupiter.  As a flower essence, Sage has an initiatory quality to it, helping us to ease through life transitions.  It is an excellent rite of passage herb and provides release to stagnating emotions.  For the season of the Winter Solstice, Sage helps us to express our deepest kept secrets in ways that bring us joy.

sage winter solstice yuleSage Salvia officinalis

OAK Flower Essence
As the Wheel of the Year turns from the Holly to the powers of the Oak, the energies of Capricorn begin to shine.  A tree of Saturn (which rules Capricorn), Oak is a great flower essence for those folks who struggle on even though they are exhausted – they put on a happy and courageous face, hiding their feelings, and never complaining in hopes of not being seen as weak.  While they appear tireless, they have only become rigid in a state of constant stress brought on by a need to achieve the next thing on their list.  An excellent remedy for Capricorns who tend to burn the candle from both ends (you know who you are).  Oak helps us know our limits and be kinder to ourselves by realizing that taking time to rest is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of intelligent strength.

HEMATITE Gem Essence
A reflective mirror of night, Hematite is grounding and centering during the hustle of winter holidays.  Hematite is also a very protective Essence and helps folks feel shielded from fears, especially those of the “lurking in the dark” sort of insecurities, teaching us that it is not the dark we fear, for darkness is beautiful and necessary, but what we perceive to dwell within the shadows.

Be well and drink deep the darkness for after the Winter Solstice the days begin to grow longer as we prepare for the burst of spring!  

Create your own delicious + fully enchanted recipes for the winter with The Winter Apothecary!

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Hematite Gem Essence is available in our Apothecary along with other fully enchanted herbal remedies for the wintertide.

::right now::

Right now, I am…

:: celebrating my love’s graduation from midwifery school!

:: settling in to life in California – the fourth state the Apothecary has been in over the past year and a half.

:: excited about the Olympics (woohoo!) and the fact that they taking place during the season of Lughnasadh – a Celtic harvest festival involving games of skill and competitions in honor of the Goddess Tailtiu.

:: recognizing moments of pause and … pausing … in them.

:: loving the clever ones who support the Apothecary.  Get a sneak peak of just what an Apothecary package looks like at Daily Nuggets.

:: relishing escapes to magickal cabins in the Vermont woods.

puppy on his favorite chair complete with socks on the arm.

:: thinking about how it is that the Apothecary puppy has been with us for one whole year!  We rescued him down in Austin and he was gracious enough to welcome us into his pack.

:: wearing a hot pink headscarf with a turquoise and white accent scarf.  Bright colors are food for my soul (and a great way to pick me out of a crowd)!

:: jumping up and down seeing our Essences in Sword+Fern up in Portland, OR.  See our little essences here!

:: considering the possibility of designing an e-course and continuing the Clever Hedgehog School of Herbology in an online and in-person format.

:: hoping for more hot summer days here on the coast – I’ll send the cool weather to the midwest for a bit more warmth by the sea!

:: feeling joy every time I step out onto the potted garden porch that I’m currently cultivating.  It has lots of Basil in it of all sorts of varieties!

:: reading The Compleat Herbal by Ben Charles Harris which focuses on the wisdom of herbs through the Doctrine of Signatures.

:: listening to Eivør’s Trøllabundin on repeat.  Seriously magickal sounds…

:: laughing at toddlers who know how to work a room and tear up a dance floor.

:: enjoying fruit!  Fresh, local, organic California fruit!

:: smiling at Sage (Salvia officinalis) and all the ways we’ve been spending time together – making oils, infused-honeys, and sacred bundles.

:: readying myself for the upcoming harvest season – some of the most enchanted times of the year for me.

:: loving the continuing adventures of Basil making new friends at the park.  He likes to wrestle with a Aussie-doodle named Cody, play tag with an Irish Setter named Lola, and has a grey twin named Jameson who he is just getting to know.

:: singing Lucy Love’s We Are the Stars.

:: brewing batches of medicinal honeys, herbal oils, and more tea blends for wizards.

:: sending out lots of Traveling Tea Parties!

:: working on the Apothecary’s first ebook!  Morning Mischief: Enchanted Herbal Recipes for Delicious Awakenings + Resolute Magnificence! will be full of remedy recipes, inspiring instructionals, and be full of colorful pictures as well as our unique design aesthetic that keeps this Apothecary quirky.

:: grateful for long summer days with golden light and seaside breezes.

:: wanting more sweet watermelon picnics.

:: wishing everyone a beautiful golden summer!

How To Make Herbal Oils – Warm Infusion Folk Method

herbal oils worts and cunning apothecary

The infusion of herbs in an oil-based menstruum is a wonderful way of using herbs medicinally and can be a base for further medicine-making adventures including salves, lotions, and creams.  We’ll be using a warm infusion folk method of creating a herbal oil which more or less means that exact measurements are not used and we’re not looking for an exact herb-to-oil ratio (it is all very hang-loose in the Apothecary today!).  We’ll also be gently warming our oil as part of the infusion process, so it is important to set aside time that you’ll be able to be home and checking in on your herbal oil potion throughout the day.

Let’s start with the foundation of our Herbal Oil – the Oil Menstruum. (more…)

A History of Thievery: Making Medicinal Vinegars

Death Plays with Medicine
Hartman Schedel, 1493
Image: Histoire de la Medecine

What is full of essential amino acids, vibrant enzymes, vitamins, and minerals and balances the bodies acid/alkaline state and tastes good?  Apple cider vinegar!  In the body, apple cider vinegar diminishes thirsts, helps to relieve feelings of restlessness, manages fevers, and has an overall cooling effect.  Externally, apple cider vinegar keeps skin smooth, treats sprains and bruises, checks perspiration odor, and relieves inflammation and itching.  Making medicinal vinegars is abundantly easy.  They are great alternatives to alcohol and glycerine based extracts and have a long history of use in western herbalism.  Ever heard of the infamous Four Thieves Vinegar?

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A Strong Brew: Making Medicinal Tea

There is more than one way to make tea.  Tea can be made with carefully heated water to the right temperature with a specific allotment of time for steeping.  Some teas are loose leaf, some are bagged; some left to steep for five minutes, others until the drinker remembers to remove the tea from cup or pot.  Making medicinal tea does not require any skills beyond making a regular cup of tea, except, perhaps, more patience and more tea.
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